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Barcelona to Paris Oct. 24 to Nov. 6

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I am trying to help some friends, a couple, plan a trip mostly in France for the dates shown. They will be coming off a cruise in Barcelona. Here is our (mostly their) first stab at an itinerary.

10/25 leave Barcelona train to Montpellier, looks like 4 1/2 hr train. stay for 2 nights
Leave 10/27 to Toulouse 2hr train. stay 2 nights rent car
Leave 10/29 drive to Sarlat 90 miles. stay 3 nights
Leave Sarlat 11/1 to Tours or nearby. Stay in Loire Valley from 11/1- 11/5 drop car
Train to Paris on 11/6 leave on the 13th. (apartment rental)

They prefer to use the trains, but I suggested a one-week car rental to see Dordogne and Loire Valley.

Questions:
1. Is it worth (I know, I know) going all the way to Montpellier from Barcelona or would Narbonne or Béziers do as well?

2. Would you suggest a one-night stay in Carcassonne on the way to Toulouse? I guess they would have to take a taxi from the train station to the Cité and back. If they did this they'd have to take a day away from Toulouse or Loire, I suppose. I wouldn't take it from Sarlat, I don't think.

3. Will major sites (caves, castles) in the Dordogne be open at this time of year?

4. Would you reapportion days differently? More in Dordogne, less in Loire?

5. If they do stay in the Loire Valley for several days, would you suggest two bases, perhaps one west of Tours (Saumur?), another east (Amboise)?

6. Any other suggestions for improvement? I haven't researched much as yet but thought I'd see what you think about this rough itinerary.

Thanks for any and all input.

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